2006 Iranian sumptuary law controversy

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On May 19, 2006, the National Post of Canada published pieces by Amir Taheri alleging that the Iranian parliament had passed a sumptuary law mandating a national dress code for all Iranians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Both National Post articles went on to say that non-Muslim religious minorities in Iran would be required to wear "special insignia": yellow for Jews, red for Christians and blue for Zoroastrian. According to the article by Taheri, "[t]he new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean)."[1] According to both articles, Iranian Muslims would have to wear "standard Islamic garments".

Numerous other sources, including Maurice Motamed, the Jewish member of the Iranian parliament and the Iranian Embassy in Canada, refuted the report as untrue. The National Post later retracted the original article ("Iran eyes badges for Jews: Law would require non-Muslim insignia") and published an article, to the contrary ("Experts say reports of badges for Jews in Iran is untrue").[2]

The original article listed only "human rights groups" and "Iranian expatriates living in Canada" as its sources. Amir Taheri made a statement on May 22 saying the National Post story he authored was used by "a number of reports that somehow jumped the gun" and that he stands by the article. Amir states he raised the issue "not as a news story" but rather "as an opinion column".[3][verification needed]

The Associated Press later refuted the Post report as well, saying that "a draft law moving through parliament encourages Iranians to wear Islamic clothing to protect the country's Muslim identity but does not mention special attire for religious minorities, according to a copy obtained Saturday by The Associated Press."[4] Reuters also reported that "A copy of the bill obtained by Reuters contained no such references. Reuters correspondents who followed the dress code session in parliament as it was broadcast on state radio heard no discussion of proscriptions for religious minorities."[5]

Finally on May 24, 2006, the National Post issues an apology for the untrue reports that the Iranian law would "require Jews and other religious minorities in Iran to wear badges". "It is now clear the story is not true," wrote Editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly in a long editorial appearing on Page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."[6]

Refutation[edit]

In the follow-up article "Experts say reports of badges for Jews in Iran is untrue", the National Post quotes Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East:

Meir Javdanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, said yesterday that he was unable to find any evidence that such a law had been passed.

“None of my sources in Iran have heard of this,” he said. “I don’t know where this comes from.”

Mr. Javdanfar said that not all clauses of the law had been passed through the parliament and said the requirement that Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians wear special insignia might be part of an older version of the Islamic dress law, which was first written two years ago.

“In any case, there is no way that they could have forced Iranian Jews to wear this,” he added. “The Iranian people would never stand for it.”[2]

...as did the news radio station AM 940 Montreal.

"[I]ndependent reporter Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false.

"It's absolutely factually incorrect," he told The New 940 Montreal. "Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I've checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside."

"The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn't be stupid enough to do it."[7]

The National Post also quotes the London-based Iranian commentator Ali Reza Nourizadeh:

"Ali Reza Nourizadeh, an Iranian commentator on political affairs in London, suggested that the requirements for badges or insignia for religious minorities was part of a “secondary motion” introduced in parliament, addressing the changes specific to the attire of people of various religious backgrounds.

Mr. Nourizadeh said that motion was very minor and was far from being passed into law.

That account could not be confirmed."[2]

According to Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, his contacts in the Iranian Jewish community, including Maurice Motamed, said that there was no such law. The New York Sun quoted Kermanian as saying that "We have not been able to confirm the accuracy of the report, nonetheless we are pursuing this issue with concern[.]"[8]

According to Agence France-Presse,

"This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false," Maurice Motammed told AFP in Tehran. "It is a lie, and the people who invented it wanted to make political gain" by doing so.

.... Motammed said he had been present in parliament when a bill to promote "an Iranian and Islamic style of dress for women" was voted. "In the law, there is no mention of religious minorities," he added.

MPs representing Iran's Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian minorities sit on all parliamentary committees, particularly the cultural one, he said.

"This is an insult to the Iranian people and to religious minorities in Iran," he said.[9]

According to the Toronto Star,

"In a phone interview from Tel Aviv, Israeli commentator and Iranian exile Meir Jawadnafar angrily dismissed the story as "baseless." Toronto-based Iranian blogger Hossein Derkhshan said he could find no evidence of any such plans. Repeated calls to Post editor-in-chief Doug Kelly went unreturned. The paper's website ran a story headlined "Experts say report of badges ... is untrue.""[10]

Early reaction[edit]

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan protesting the alleged new law and urging the United Nations to take action. Rabbi Hier compared it to the Nazi requirement for the Jews to wear yellow badges that "ended with the Holocaust that led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians." "Given President Ahmadinejad’s record of labeling the Holocaust a myth and calling for the obliteration of the State of Israel," he wrote, "we must urgently take action."[11][verification needed]

However, since then the passage of such a law has been called into question. "We're looking into it," Annan's spokesperson in New York said, "and we haven't got anything solid."[10][not in citation given]

According to Kayhan, the Iranian foreign ministry called the Canadian Ambassador to Iran for an explanation and apology. Some Iranian journalists and analysts asked the Iranian government to file a case in international court against National Post, as BBC Persian reported.[12]

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper reacted to the report during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Harper said the Iranian regime is "very capable of this kind of action" and that "It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany".[13][not in citation given]

On May 21 Iran summoned Canada's ambassador to Tehran to explain the remarks made by Canada's Prime Minister.[14][dead link]| date=January 2013 Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the Canadian ambassador had been summoned so Iran could object "to the Canadian prime minister's unwise comments" and that "We invite the Canadians to be deeper in their comments. It is not good for an official to make comments based on wrong information".[15][verification needed]

Apology[edit]

On May 24, 2006, the National Post apologized for its reports that the Iranian law would "require Jews and other religious minorities in Iran to wear badges". "It is now clear the story is not true," wrote Editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly in a long editorial appearing on Page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story." The apology includes a description of story sources and factors that contributed to the decision to run the story. Amir Taheri is identified as the initial source for the "story of the alleged badge law". Story confirmation described in the apology included the dean and associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The remaining positive confirmation described consists of two Iranian exiles in Canada who said they had heard of the story from contacts in Iran and they believed it to be true. Confirmation was attempted with the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, and the editorial claims that the embassy refused to confirm or deny the allegation (though another National Post article confirms that the Iranian embassy denied the allegation[2]).[verification needed]

The National Post apology also identifies one of the factors that contributed to the decision to run the story as being "previous statements of the Iranian President."[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amir Taheri (May 19, 2006). "A colour code for Iran's 'infidels'". National Post (Canada). Archived from the original on 1 June 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Experts say report of badges for Jews in Iran is untrue". National Post (Canada). May 19, 2006. Archived from the original on 28 May 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2006. 
  3. ^ Amir Taheri (May 22, 2006). "PRESS RELEASE: AMIR TAHERI ADDRESSES QUERIES ABOUT DRESS CODE STORY". Benador Associates. Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2006. [verification needed]
  4. ^ The Associated Press (May 20, 2006). "Iranian Law Would Encourage Islamic Dress". Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2006. 
  5. ^ Reuters (May 20, 2006). "Iran dress code law does not target minorities – MPs". Reuters. Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved May 21, 2006. 
  6. ^ "Our mistake: Note to readers", National Post, May 24, 2006
  7. ^ "Iran report of Holocaust-style badges questioned". 940news.com. May 19, 2006. Archived from the original on May 21, 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2006. 
  8. ^ Eli Lake (May 19, 2006). "Scramble Is On To Confirm Report Iran Wants Jews To Wear Badges". The New York Sun. Retrieved May 20, 2006. 
  9. ^ Agence France Presse (May 19, 2006). "Reports Iran to tag non-Muslims denied by Jewish MP". Yahoo. Archived from the original on June 16, 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2006. 
  10. ^ a b Toronto Star (May 20, 2006). "Tehran denounces `baseless' report". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 20 June 2006. Retrieved May 21, 2006. 
  11. ^ Rabbi Marvin Hier (May 18, 2006). "Letter to the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved May 19, 2006. 
  12. ^ BBCPersian.com
  13. ^ Canadian Press (May 19, 2006). "Harper says Iran reports about religious clothing labels reminiscent of Nazis". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved May 23, 2006. [dead link][not in citation given]
  14. ^ Reuters (May 24, 2006). "Iran summons Venner over PM's remarks". Reuters Canada. Retrieved May 24, 2006.  | date=January 2013
  15. ^ Agence France Presse (May 24, 2006). "Tehran chastises Canadian envoy over PM's remarks". The Daily Star. Retrieved May 24, 2006. [verification needed]